By Steven Powell
It’s trade show season and you’re responsible — Will your organization be prepared for ultimate sales success or have to write it off as ‘just another show’?
Like all marketing efforts, the first question to be asked is the most basic and the most important. What are you trying to accomplish by exhibiting at a trade show? Are you looking to pick up leads or just there for exposure? Sometimes it’s important to attend a trade show just to support an organization, but it’s important that you clearly define what you hope to achieve before you commit to exhibiting.
What are your goals?
Set clear goals for this show. Have everyone that will be working in the booth aware of these goals and how you’re going to achieve them.
Not-so-good: We want new customers!
Good: “As part of our overall sales strategy we want to set a goal of increasing our customer base by 15%. We are exhibiting at XYZ Show as part of this marketing effort.”
Better: “…and we want to leave this event with 30 hot leads that can be followed up in the days/weeks ahead.”
What is your budget?
Your budget should be a factor of your expected R.O.I. Once you determine what you need to see as a result of your efforts, you’re much more able to judge what your goals need to be on a break-even basis. How many leads does it take to make a sale? What is a sale worth to you? For example, if a sale is worth $1,000 in profit and it takes 10 leads to get a sale, then you can expect 30 leads to generate $3,000 in profit from this show. (Factor in your own numbers.) Is this a reasonable expectation?
What other factors should you consider?
Don’t discount exposure. There’s a real value in just being there. People see and (hopefully) remember you. This is an important factor not to be taken for granted. One day they may come back and purchase your service or product. It’s critical that you stand out from the sea of other exhibitors. Make them remember you and your sales message.
What resources will you need for the show?
Physical necessities: In addition to your booth space, you’ll need to consider power, lighting, internet access, chairs or other furnishings.
Trade Show Booth Graphics: Don’t have anything? Can you get by with just a table? Are there other inexpensive ways to project your image in a professional manner? Or, is it time to bite the bullet and spend money on sophisticated graphics and a professional display?
Manpower: It’s vital that you have enough people to staff your booth. Imagine you’re mobbed and you can’t get to the really hot prospect before they move on. Or worse, the one person assigned this task needs a break. Then what happens to that strolling prospect?
Collateral Material: What brochures, catalogs, sale sheets or other printed materials will you be handing out? Are they on target with your stated goals and sales messages? Do they look professional or home-made? What do they cost to hand out?
Promotional Merchandise: What typically happens is that attendees walk the aisles and pick up ‘cool stuff’. But, have you gotten your message across to the right people? Or, just given away ‘stuff’? Think through your give-aways and make choices that enhance your image and remind people of what you’re selling.
Who is it that you want to attract to your booth?
Hopefully, there will be lots of people attending the show. Which of these people do you want to meet? Target your market here just like in your other marketing campaigns.
Do you want to invite a select group attending the show to come by your booth? If so, what’s going to attract them? If you send an invitation, what’s going to make it stand out from all the other invitations they’ll probably get and why should they remember to come to your booth?
Do your sales messages flow off your tongue?
Got them at your booth? What are you telling them? This is what’s it’s all about, right? Your message. Your product or your service. It doesn’t matter how many people visit your booth. If you don’t get your message out to them properly, what was the point of doing this? Rehearse this with yourself or any compatriots.
How can you increase your odds and help them find you?
What if you put on your best outfit, rehearse your delivery, plaster on your biggest smile and nobody finds you? Will an ad in the show’s Directory be seen by the people that matter to you? Then consider it. Most offer pretty good rates for the exposure to attendees plus your fellow exhibitors. A larger banner? Extra staffing so you can network effectively? Reprinted literature? Advance mailings? Spend the money where possible.
How are you going to get the attendees to give you their information?
Okay, so you did everything right and they’ve heard your message. Now, why should they give you their info or—better—invite you to call them? Why would you if the situations were reversed? In short, what’s in it for them?
How are you going to follow up on the leads?
After the show they probably won’t remember you. You’re going to have to remind them who you are and why they were interested in talking with you. How are you going to get these people to accept your calls after the show? How are you going to turn those calls into appointments and sales? Be prepared.
Will they remember you?
Let us repeat that last statement. After the show they probably won’t remember you. What can you do to keep your message in front of them after the show is over? Direct mail, e-mail, phone calls, targeted promotional materials; everything adds up, so don’t miss a trick!
Could you do more?
Did you advertise in the show’s marketing literature or Guide? Many people keep these publications long after the exhibitor materials have been tossed. This is especially true of your fellow exhibitors, who may not have found the time to wander the show. Just remember that there’s a fine line between communicating effectively and bombarding possible buyers with annoying calls or e-mails. Be an information source, not a nuisance.
Could you do even more?
Elmer Wheeler was the best known marketing expert of his time. His instructional books, including Tested Sentences That Sell, introduced pop psychology to the realm of marketing; advising would be salespeople to pay more attention to human nature.
Wheeler knew the importance of selling…
Benefits – not features
Emotions – not rational intellect
Solutions – not issues.
Study these attributes in your targeted market, focus your sales messages, find the best ways to state those messages and then, make the experience memorable.
Now, go get ‘em.
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